“Hope is the hallelujah choir behind the sermon.”
With these words, essayist Andrea Helm adds a poignant coda to the inaugural issue of The Southeast Europe Whistleblower Journal. Entitled “New Times, New Hope,” the publication commemorates the fifth anniversary of the Southeast Europe Coalition on Whistleblower Protection.
The Coalition began out of a belief and a desire: a belief that all citizens should have the freedom and the right to report crime and corruption without suffering retaliation, and the desire to put these freedoms and rights into progressive action for the common good.
Southeast Europe is a place where democracies are new, where struggles are real, where activism is invigorating and where hopes are high. The Coalition has harnessed these energies to meaningfully advance the causes of public integrity and justice.
What started as an idea in 2015 is now one of the largest grassroots activism organizations in the region. The Coalition has grown to more than 40 NGO and media members in 16 countries, coordinated by a core staff of activists in Tirana, Prague, Belgrade and Berlin.
With a personal tone, the Journal includes thoughts and reflections by some of the whistleblowers and journalists the Coalition has supported and campaigned for:
- Sarajevo legislator Sabina Ćudić, winner of the Coalition’s 2020 Free Speech Prize, who shocked Bosnian society when she revealed photos of brutalized disabled children at a public care home.
- Gjorgji Lazarevski and Zvonko Kostovski, winners of the 2018 Free Speech Prize, who the Coalition helped return to the public service positions they lost after exposing illegal wiretapping by Macedonia Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
- Murat Mehmeti, who blew the whistle on one of the biggest tax scams in Kosovo’s history, which was condoned by a high-ranking Tax Administration official.
- Milka Tadić-Mijović, one of Montenegro’s most prominent journalists and media figures, who laments the Soviet-style smearing of journalists as “traitors, enemies of the state and mercenaries of foreign countries.”
The Coalition’s accomplishments are a testament to the importance of grassroots campaigning, regional cooperation and a philosophy of independence. The organization has supported more than 100 whistleblowers, investigated more than 30 corruption cases, helped pass 6 national whistleblower laws, and coach more than 50 public officials in whistleblower protection and anti-corruption practice.
In every Western Balkan country, the Coalition’s grant program has helped start or expand whistleblower rights campaigns, or helped journalists investigate corrupt politicians and companies.
Because of the Coalition’s efforts, whistleblower rights are stronger, more citizens are stepping up to report misconduct, more journalists are writing about whistleblower cases, and more citizens are being protected from retaliation.